What is IVF and ICSI

20 years ago, the first baby was born that was processed via IVF. Now 20 years later, fertilization via a test tube is one of the most normal things in the world. But what is IVF and ICSI?

IVF: In vitro fertilization.

It literally means: fertilization in glass. Multiple sperm cells are used during IVF fertilization. They are injected together into a container where an egg cell is also located. The sperm cells therefore have to find and fertilize the egg themselves. In 25% of cases this results in fertilization.
IVF fertilization does not take place in the body but in a container in the laboratory. Before this happens, the woman receives hormone injections, which stimulate the ripening of the eggs in the egg sacs. The chance of success increases if more mature eggs are produced. The mature eggs are punctured with a hollow needle. The mature egg cell is in the fluid of an egg sac. This is combined with the man’s sperm in the laboratory.
Once the egg has been fertilized in the laboratory, it is placed back into the woman’s uterus using a catheter. An ultrasound is then used to check whether the egg has implanted properly in the uterine lining. If this is the case, the attempt was successful.
IVF and freezing:
often not all fertilized eggs are replaced during IVF treatment. If they are of good quality, these can be frozen and used at a later time. The chance of success with IVF with frozen fertilized eggs is 10%, which is less than with non-frozen eggs.

ICSI: intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

With ICSI, unlike IVF, only a single sperm cell is injected into an egg cell. So the sperm does not have to search for and fertilize the egg. Fertilization is done by people in a laboratory, this attempt is often made when no results are achieved with IVF. Furthermore, ICSI is the same as IVF in all respects, only the fertilization process is different. The chance of success is 20-25%.

Going abroad for a baby

There are couples who have little chance of fertilization via IVF or ICSI in the Netherlands because, for example, doctors consider the chance of success to be nil or because they want to become pregnant via anonymous egg donation, which is prohibited in the Netherlands. For these reasons, they can move abroad where clinics more often treat women over 40 or practice anonymous egg donation. Often more fertilized eggs are returned here, which increases the chance of success. But the chance of a large multiple birth also increases, and that also entails risks. Things happen there that are considered ethically and medically unacceptable in the Netherlands for good reason.

Is IVF and ICSI safe for mother and child?

Children born via these methods are no more likely to suffer from congenital defects than children born naturally. However, there is a chance that birth will start a little too early (approx. 5 days) and that the birth weight will be somewhat lower.
It is not yet known whether these differences have long-term consequences. After IVF or ICSI treatment, a woman is not at increased risk of breast, uterine or ovarian cancer. But here too, the long-term consequences are not yet known.

Fertility decreases after the age of 30

IVF and ICSI are increasingly regarded as normal fertility treatments, but there are still risks involved. Overstimulation by hormones can make you really ill. And the risk of infection or bleeding from the injection in your abdomen remains.
Moreover, IVF and ICSI are a lot of hassle, you have to inject hormone injections yourself, the punctures are painful and you often have to go to the hospital . But for those who cannot become pregnant naturally, this is a wonderful alternative.

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